Monday, December 30, 2013

News Briefs # 108

Aid Deal with Gulf States

Qatar and Morocco have signed an aid deal worth US $1.25 billion. It forms part of a package of financial assistance over five years from the wealthy Gulf states to Morocco, with the aim of helping it to weather the Arab Spring protests
The Emir of Qatar and King Mohammed VI have signed an aid deal

Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to provide aid worth a total 5 billion dollars to Morocco until 2017 to build up its infrastructure, strengthen its economy and foster tourism.

Each of the four countries has committed 1.25 billion dollars to Morocco for the whole five year period.

King Mohammed VI signed an agreement last Friday with Emir of Qatar. The aid will be very welcome in order to reduce social discontent that helped to oust rulers elsewhere in North Africa, including Tunisia and Egypt.

Morocco is under heavy pressure from international lenders to reduce its budget deficit after spending heavily on food and energy subsidies and higher public sector salaries in 2011 and 2012, to help defuse social tensions.

Morocco has budgeted to receive a total 1 billion dollars in aid from the Gulf states for 2014. It hopes to cut its budget deficit to 4.9 percent of gross domestic product next year from an estimated 5.5 percent in 2013.

Qatar was the last of the four Gulf states to sign the aid accord with Morocco.

The Gulf states have agreed a similar package of aid, also worth a total 5 billion dollars over a five-year period, for Jordan.

China Plans Strategic Alliance with Morocco

China is also wooing Morocco - the latest in a line of US allies. Last Tuesday December 23 King Mohammed VI met with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi, who is on an official visit, at the Royal palace in Rabat
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi meets King Mohammed VI in Rabat

Officials said China has been planning a summit with Morocco in an effort to establish a strategic alliance. Morocco has found relations with Washington under President Barack Obama less than congenial. There has been tension over the US support for Algeria as well as efforts to undermine Rabat's control of the disputed Western Sahara.

The officials said the alliance could be formally launched during a visit by Moroccan King Mohammed to Beijing. “We welcome this invitation,” a Moroccan official said. The date has not yet been named for the visit.

At least 20 Chinese companies are operating in Morocco, with trade in 2012 reported to be around 300 million euro.

Terrorist Cell Dismantled

Moroccan authorities said on Thursday they had dismantled a “terrorist cell” operating in several cities that included people trained in the use of firearms and explosives

North Africa has been on heightened alert in recent years as regional jihadist groups have grown more powerful and as the turmoil in Libya following Muammar Qaddafi’s 2011 overthrow has left the vast and mostly desert region awash with weapons.

Morocco’s interior ministry said the operation had netted an individual who had been detained in the past on terrorism charges and who was now coordinating nationwide operations, including fundraising and recruiting militants.

The ministry did not specify the number of people arrested nor the cities in which the operation took place.

Morocco has announced the dismantling of several alleged terrorist cells this year, and authorities have expressed concern about the proliferation of extremist groups.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the global terror network’s North Africa affiliate, released a video in September calling for jihad in Morocco, which it referred to as a “kingdom of corruption and despotism.”

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